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Here’s Why There Are Suddenly Mini-Trailers Before the Movie Trailers on YouTube

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If you watch a lot of trailers on YouTube, you’ve probably noticed a trend that’s suddenly become very prevalent: You click to play a trailer, but before the actual clip begins, you get a five-second flash of the thing you’re about to watch, complete with its own title card. Then the MPAA warning shows up and the full trailer plays. You can see an example above in the teaser for Ron Howard’s Inferno.

Essentially, it’s a trailer for the trailer you’re about to watch, something that seems pretty redundant, since you’ve already made the decision to watch the damn thing and all this does is prevent you from doing that. Why would you make the people who want to watch your clip wait? To an outside observer, it doesn’t make any sense. And as a guy who watches a lot of these trailers as part of his job, it’s starting to drive me crazy. Why is this happening?

Business Insider has the explanation. As first revealed by an executive at CBS FIlms a few weeks ago on Twitter, it all has to do with “mobile optimization.” The mini-trailer isn’t for you or me, the nerd who’s explicitly gone to YouTube to watch the trailer for Inferno. It’s there for the random person on Facebook looking for something to watch or read. That trailer highlight reel, which autoplays as a person scrolls through their mobile Facebook feed, is designed to catch a reader’s eye. Since people are scrolling quickly, the trailer only has a second or two to grab them before they’re on to the next thing. And since all trailers start with the same bland boring MPAA green card, this is a way to hook an audience immediately.

Of course, the result explicitly makes the experience worse for desktop users and people who are already interested in watching your trailer. As part of their article, Business Insider interviewed Mark Woollen, one of the biggest trailer editors in the nation. He’s not a fan of the new technique:

I guess there’s some data somewhere that supports it, but it feels like a form of self-cannibalism myself … You spend months going through the process of making a trailer, which is trial and error and different voices involved and research and all of that, and then the week before the trailer comes out it’s like, ‘Oh, we should take five of the best shots and put it before the whole thing.’

That’s true, too. In a sense, they’re almost trailer spoilers, since they tend to give away the money shots before they can revealed in the trailer.

As Woollen says, research suggests these sort of mini-trailers help boost views on mobile. But I can’t be the only one who hates them. I understand why they’re there now, but I still don’t like them. I don’t know what the solution to this problem might be (two trailers; one for mobile and one for desktop?) but I hope something is found soon.

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